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12/10-12/14 Old Italian Cinema

Posted by novoscene on December 9, 2008

Last month Berkeley’s BAM/PFA presented a program of China’s new cinema vanguard. This month they’re looking in the opposite direction with “Moments of Truth: Italian Cinema Classics” a month of films by Italy’s old masters. Well, old as in like, the ’40’s.

Through Dec. 21 check out favorites from Rossellini, Fellini, Visconti, De Sica, Olmi, and others. This week’s flicks focus on the arthouse works of Luchino Visconti and Francesco Rosi with screenings Wed. Saturday and Sunday.


7:00 Rocco and His Brothers

Luchino Visconti (Italy, 1960, 172 mins)
(Rocco e i suoi fratelli). At once lyrical and brutal, this family saga is fatalist film noir expressed through a purity of vision; like the saintly Rocco (Alain Delon) himself, it takes a lot of violence to daunt Visconti’s love. Rocco is a character like Dostoyevsky’s Prince Mishkin, or Bresson’s Balthazar. He is the anomaly among the five sons of a poor but canny widow (Katina Paxinou) who brings her family from the south to Milan, where they “arrive like an earthquake,” unprepared for the strains of urban living. The film develops in five episodes, one devoted to each brother, but the structure is as complex as their lives are intertwined. Delon, in his finest role, and Annie Girardot, as the prostitute who takes the fall for the saint, validate Visconti’s view that “an expression of the burden of being human is the only thing that really counts on the screen.”


6:30 The Moment of Truth

Francesco Rosi (Italy, 1965, 105 mins)
PFA Collection Print
(Il momento della verità). It’s a familiar tale: poor rural boy heads to the city and is seduced by big money and big glory. Italian filmmaker Francesco Rosi sets this tragic tale in the Spanish bullfighting ring-a world he depicts with brutal poetic realism. Farmer’s son Miguel leaves Andalucia for Barcelona in search of work. As he soon discovers, however, Barcelona is not a city of possibility but one drained by an oversaturated labor market. Hungry and ambitious, Miguel turns to bullfighting, a sport in which he excels. The film shows his meteoric rise through a series of intensely realistic bullfights-all captured in a documentary style that shows the ritualistic details while not shying away from the ugly, messy gore. Miguel’s task, of course, is to destroy each bull-but his technique is almost tender, a series of gestures that woo and hypnotize the animals. “The moment of truth” is that instant when the matador skillfully slays the mighty bull with one final stab. For Miguel, however, we know that this truth will ultimately prove dangerous.


6:30 Sandra

Luchino Visconti (Italy, 1965, 100 mins)
Vault Print
(Vaghe stelle dell’orsa, a.k.a. Of a Thousand Delights). Visconti’s wondrous mood piece is an Elektra story of incestuous passions and family secrets, set in the crumbling Italian city of Volterra. Claudia Cardinale brings her new American husband home to meet her mother and brother on a very particular occasion: a memorial is being unveiled for her father, who died at Auschwitz. It isn’t the ghosts of the dead that haunt this home, however, but the secrets of the living. “Ours is not a normal atmosphere,” her mother declares ominously, hinting of “secret vices,” both hers (she may have denounced her husband to the Nazis) and her children’s (they may have been in love, may still be). With a tale so ripe that the actors should be singing, not speaking, the ever-iconoclastic Visconti heads towards a Romantic ideal of emotion as narrative, and repression as the greatest spectacle.

“Moments of Truth: Italian Cinema Classics”
$9.50 Adults $5.50 BAM/PFA members, UC Berkeley students
The Pacific Film Archive Theater
2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley


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